Iran's Foreign Minister in 2019: 'I Doubt That President Trump Wants Conflict'

Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran's top security and intelligence commander and arguably the country's second-most powerful leader after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed early Friday morning at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike. The attack — to which Tehran vowed to retaliate — marks a striking escalation in the long-simmering conflict between Iran and the United States. 

In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which mandated that Iran curtail its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Last April, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared at Asia Society New York for a conversation with Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran. In an excerpt embedded above, Zarif explains why Trump's attempt to maximize pressure on Iran won't work:

I doubt that President Trump wants conflict.

He ran on a campaign promise — and it seems to me that he’s very careful to at least try to implement his campaign promises — not to waste another $7 trillion in our region in order to make the situation even worse. So, I guess he wants to stick to that commitment.

He thinks through further pressure on Iran — the so-called “maximum pressure” policy — he can bring us to our knees. He’s mistaken. We have 7,000 years of history. We’ve had battles. We’ve had losses. We’ve had victories. Usually, we haven’t come to our knees. And this won’t be an aberration of that. 

We don’t look at history in terms of two, four, and six years, as [Americans] usually do with congress, or in the administration, or in the senate. We look at history in millennia. And our dignity is not up for sale.

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Matt Schiavenza is the Assistant Director of Content at Asia Society. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Fortune, and strategy + business among other publications.